September 25, 2018
I found it very gratifying to see the depth and breadth of the tributes paid to the late Senator John McCain. No matter who you are, from where you hail, what language you speak, there are core definitions connected to basic humanity that do not change. These were all honored last week.
Integrity is; compassion is; honesty is; heroism is—and Senator McCain embodied them all.
I wanted to wait a week before I gave any comments, because I didn’t want to intrude. I am a Canadian, but that has never prevented me from seeing people as they are, for respecting those who exemplify the best of what we humans can be.
I have admired several of your luminaries in the past, irrespective of their political party. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I’m just a simple woman who has tried to live her life according to certain principles and standards that I have come to expect of myself and pray to see in others.
I try very hard never to lash out in anger; never to return slights, or insults, or even injuries with like actions or words. I’ve come to believe that kindness and consideration are far more powerful weapons than are hate and vitriol. This does not mean that when I meet an injustice, I become a door mat. When I see or hear of a wrong, I stand up and speak out. Couching my opinions and actions in what some might see as meekness does not diminish them. You don’t always have to scream to be heard. Sometimes the most impacting words can be conveyed in whispers.
So, I was gratified to see the respect with which many responded to the Senator’s death. That he would ask two of his fiercest political opponents to eulogize him speaks more eloquently of John McCain’s character than even the most lavish words of praise could ever do.
The speed of life is faster now than ever it was. Solitude, peace and quiet, and moments of reflection appear to have lost their value in today’s world. These three qualities are invaluable to the individual psyche. When I meet people, ones who don’t like to be alone, who don’t like to take the time to surround themselves in quiet, then I pay attention, because in my mind—and friends, I have no scientific evidence to support this, just experience—I feel these people are troubled and lacking in some way. Sometimes, it’s a case of their having very low self-esteem—and sometimes it’s the complete opposite of that.
And once in a while you encounter an individual who wraps his inner sense of worthlessness in a gaudy cloak of loud egotism.
People who have to always be the center of attention, who by their actions and words are constantly shouting, “watch me, watch me!”, are people who are deeply troubled and in need of help.
My late son, Anthony, was like that. I wish I’d been mature enough, wise enough, to truly understand the danger a narcissistic personality could be. I’ll always wish I could have done more, but I understand there are limits even to what a loving mother can accomplish. I remember one counselor telling me that there was no cure for narcissism. The very best you could hope for, she said, was if you could somehow convince the narcissist that they needed to behave differently. Then, she told me, you might be able to get them to modify their behavior and their responses, but, she cautioned, beneath it all, they would still believe all they ever had about themselves. They would still be narcissists.
Whenever I hear people talking about those who clearly are narcissists, I shake my head when I hear them say, “well, maybe they’ll stop doing this, and do that instead. Maybe they will see reason and understand they need to put others first.”
No, they won’t. Because as they see the world—themselves at the center of everything—that is their reality, that is their truth. They often will not accept that there is anything wrong with them, because they know they have no problem. They’re perfect just the way they are.
After my son’s death at the age of 29 caused by substance abuse, I sought the help of a therapist. We mothers will blame ourselves when our children make those wrong choices in life. I certainly did, and it took me a long time to understand that I could not have affected changes in my son’s behavior, no matter how hard I tried. He simply wasn’t wired in a way that would allow him to see the long-term implications of his actions, or that his choices were wrong, or that his actions hurt all those who loved him.
The last two years of his life, desperate to help him if I could and also to protect myself, I set boundaries. And if you don’t think that haunted me in the aftermath of his death, you’d be wrong. That was one of the reasons I needed the help of a professional. He’s been gone now for just over twelve years, and I have since come to accept that changing him was never in my power, and never, in truth, my right.
Expecting a narcissist to behave in such a way that they begin to have the welfare of others at their center has the same probability for success as expecting the sun to rise in the west.
The best you can do is to know there is nothing you can do that will change them. Accept that truth, and then respond accordingly.